Crowds and Flight Safety: Should You Be Worried If the Emergency Hatch Lever Cover Keeps Popping Off?
This is a continuation from last week’s travel adventures part 1 and part 2 where we were stuck in a 95 degree plane with a broken indicator light, had a bus driver take a break mid ride, and would probably miss the connecting flight to Halifax. Click Here to Read More.
I had never experienced the Delta shuttle at La Guardia before. It is a site to behold. 8 to 12 flights at each gate with crowds of people waiting for the magical voice to call them forward so they can bounce their suitcases down the stairs and board a bus to what is hopefully the right plane. The flights are not listed on the video board in order, so it is really confusing trying to figure out which flight is next. The result is the crowd swells toward the counter every time an airline employee picks up the microphone. Then one by one disappointed travelers peel off and go back to their seats as they realize this was not their flight. They then wait again in harried anticipation of the next announcement that will signal their release to finally get on with their trip.
The number of times I observed people frantically stuffing their work back into their bags so they could rush to the gate door, only to be turned away as they learned their flight was delayed and another flight was being called was almost comical.
So in this chaos I waited patiently as my flight to Halifax was delayed again and again. One announcement said the flight had been “slightly” delayed in Cleveland, but that was around the 3 hour mark. I think after 3 hours you should not put “slightly” in front of delayed. It is just delayed. At one point we got the announcement that the plane was there but the crew’s flight time had expired so they had to find more crew. How exactly do you find more crew? Roam the terminals looking for crews that don’t seem busy? Call someone on their day off and ask them to turn off the lawn mower, take a shower, and drive into the airport? How long would that take? Grab a crew that thought they were done for the day and make them work 4 more hours? Or do they have a secret lounge with extra crews just waiting to get the call? Whatever they did, it worked, and 4 hours after it was supposed to take off we got to ride the bus to our plane.
Of course I was surprised when the announcement finally came and I became the harried traveler stuffing technology and notes into my bag as I raced to get in the boarding line. I hurried towards the gate door but quickly realized that an extensive line had formed in a matter of seconds and I walked down two gates to find the back of the line. I was politely the last person in line. No need to rush to be the 3rd to last or 2nd to last. I might as well be courteous and let others claim those spots. This turned out to be a good decision. The bus was so crowded there was standing room only and barely enough of that. I had to cram myself and my suitcase into the doorway so they could close the door; which meant when we got to the plane, I was the first person off and the first to reach the plane.
I was a little worried by the exchange I overheard between the bus driver and the gate attendant. There was a lack of clarity on which flight this bus was taking us to. When we stopped, there was a line of buses in front of us. It was hard to tell if we were waiting or this was our plane. But since the door opened, I figured this must be our plane. It would be bad if I was wrong, because everyone else was following me off the bus. Meanwhile the bus driver still looked worried and confused. I asked the baggage handler if this was the plane to Halifax. He looked at me kind of confused and hesitantly nodded his head. I don’t know if didn’t understand my Texas accent or thought I was idiot for asking the question. Luckily as I climbed the stairs, the flight attendant was able to confirm that we had found the correct plane.
So I am 6’5” and on most planes my knees are wedged into the seat in front of me. But these small Delta shuttles (CRJ700’s) took that to another level. My knees were wedged in so tight my feet could not touch the ground. I looked like an adult stuffed into a kid’s toy car. Luckily no one had the seat next to me. Or maybe no one wanted to sit next to me. Either way, with no seat mate, I was able to angle my legs into the second seat and basically take up the whole row. As I stretched my legs into the next row and began to relax we got the dreaded announcement. The plane could not take off until all of the bags were connected to passengers. Because of terrorist threats, no bags could be on the plane if they were not connected to a passenger that was on the plane. Apparently there was bag with no passenger. They assured us this was just a paperwork process created by the fact we would be flying into Canada, which was another country. As the minutes ticked by, I noticed the baggage guys returning to the cargo hold over and over again. They would throw bags around and then leave. We could hear the bumps and bangs under our seats as they moved and sorted through the bags. They did that at least 3 times over a 1 hour period before they finally let us leave. My thought and a discussion I had with the person sitting across the row from me; “had they given up and just let us go or did they really account for all the bags and people?” I noticed they had never checked the passengers on the plane, just the bags. Either way, we were finally on our way.
Since I fly a lot, I don’t worry too much about safety. But thinking about an extra disconnected bag made me pause; “Is it possible someone with bad intentions left a bag on a flight to Halifax?” But I had a hard time reconciling how Halifax would fit the profile of a terrorist target. But it was too late to worry about. The flight attendant was starting the Flight Safety Briefing.
“Please take out the emergency information card in the seat pocket in front of you.” I had to laugh. My emergency information card looked like it had been put through a meat grinder. Don’t they ever replace them? Then I looked at the couple sitting across the aisle from me. They were holding their card by the tips of their fingers. Clearly a dog had chewed it up and there were signs of dried slobber all over the card. This was our roadmap for safety in the case of emergency and they were torn up and too gross to read or even pick up. As the flight attendant finished her speech she walked to the back of the plane. When she was safely down the aisle, the Emergency Exit door latch cover magically popped off. The confused passenger in the emergency row frantically tried to replace the cover. There was apparently some worn out Velcro and the sticky remnants of old glue, but neither was strong enough to hold the cover back in place. So he would get it on, and to his consternation, it would pop back off. Eventually the flight attendant came back by and told us not to worry about it because it happens all the time. So my first flight was delayed because an indicator light was out, but we don’t need a cover on the Emergency Exit door latch? I guess that just makes things faster if there is an emergency.
As I quietly examined the now visible emergency latch, I was strangely drawn to it and had this weird desire to know what would happen if I pulled it. Luckily I was able to control my impulses, but it made me wonder, what if other people had similar thoughts but were not able to restrain themselves? During the flight no one lunged for the latch, so I guess the cover wasn’t that important.
Despite all of the indications that our safety might be less secure than we imagined, we landed in Halifax without incident. As we were guided off the plane, down the stairs and on to the Tarmac, the flight attendants warned, “Be careful out there, it just started raining.” What a great way to end such a fun-filled trip.
I was now 6 hours late, wet, and my plan to arrive early was completely shot. To top it off when I could finally get a signal on my phone, I got a message that we were having an impromptu meeting at the hotel. So I rushed to grab a cab.
I soon discovered that you don’t just grab a cab in Halifax. You have to arrange and pay for transportation. I walked up to the window and asked about my options. A cab was $65 or I could ride with the bus driver who happened to be standing right next to me for $22. Given my success with bus drivers, should I opt for fiscal responsibility at $22 or take a cab and go immediately to my hotel? If you have read through this series of blogs, you will know that I of course made the wrong decision and suffered through even more travel adventures.
What would you have done?
[Happiness Hack: Find patience for all the things you can’t control. Your thoughts, your actions, your reactions, and your happiness are always within your control. Everything outside of you is not. Sometimes you have to grin and bear it and sometimes you just have to laugh. But you don’t have to become a victim and succumb to the stress of life’s chaos that is outside of your control. The Serenity Prayer sums it up well:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Find the fun and laughter not only in the good times but also in your mishaps and you will be happier.]
Previous Post – Part 1 – 95 degree plane, broken indicator light and where do you get coffee at 5 am.
Previous Post – Part 2 – More Adventures with Travel Delays and Why Do Bus Drivers Take Breaks While Passengers are on the Bus?